Looters are the lowest of the low-down individuals on this earth.
WEST KELOWNA, B.C. — Some of the thousands of evacuees who gratefully returned home Tuesday after surviving a raging central B.C. forest fire found a nasty surprise waiting for them.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said police had received at least 10 confirmed reports of break-and-enters from the evacuated homes in Glenrosa, a neighbourhood in West Kelowna, B.C., and appealed to returning residents to keep an eye out for clues about criminal activity around their property.
He conceded it was difficult to police the many subdivisions in the West Kelowna area, which can be accessed by ATVs on forest service roads and biking trails. Police on patrol had tried to catch many people on ATVs who were seen in the Glenrosa area after the massive fire broke out on Saturday, he said.
“We were very well aware that given the terrain and the number of homes we were protecting there would be break-ins,” Cpl. Moskaluk said. “For persons to take advantage of this situation is very dishonourable… these crimes will be investigated thoroughly.”
Resident Tim Kendal, who refused to leave his home, said he had seen people using a local forestry road to get into the evacuated neighbourhood.
“I have seen guys on motorbikes and quads [all-terrain vehicles] with backpacks full of stuff,” he said. “I have just sat in my house and shone a spotlight to keep people away and let them know I am in here.”
Barbara Kreibom, who returned to her Ingram Road home, said her 12-year-old son was devastated to find out someone had stolen his Xbox 360, games and skateboards.
Although she felt violated, she said, some people lost much more to looters. “I feel so bad for my son. I was evacuated twice, first from one home and then from my cousin’s in Rose Valley,” Kreibom said.
“It’s the violation… How could they do this to people who are already out of their homes?”
The break-and-enters are being discovered as evacuees slowly return to their homes after being forced to leave by two massive fires, one in Glenrosa and one in the Rose Valley Dam area.
Of the 11,200 people who left, about 6,000 were allowed to return to their Glenrosa homes Tuesday. Another 620 people with properties in the area can go home at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
About 4,750 residents of the Glenrosa and Rose Valley neighbourhoods remain locked out as firefighters battle the fires.
Both fires were 80% contained as of Tuesday. A third fire on Terrace Mountain near Fintry, in an unpopulated area north of the city, has so far destroyed 1,300 hectares and is contained at 30%.